His Dark Materials
His Dark Materials

Iorek Byrnison was a panserbjørn and the king of Svalbard. He was a great friend and comrade to both Lyra Silvertongue and Lee Scoresby.



Iorek was the heir to the throne of Svalbard. He fought against Hjalmur Hjalmurson in a ritual of dominance to win over a female bear. However, the other bear had been drugged and would not back down when he was defeated. This led to Byrnison killing the bear, which was strictly forbidden, and he was condemned to exile.[1]

Novy Odense[]

Iorek meets Lee Scoresby for the first time

On 15 April 1962, Byrnison met Lee Scoresby for the first time. Together they helped H van Breda to defy Larsen Manganese by removing his cargo from their warehouse and leaving the island. The pair then escaped in the aëronaut's balloon.[2]


By 1997, Iorek Byrnison was working for the citizens of Trollesund, having been deceived when they gave him alcohol and took his sky-iron armour while he was intoxicated.

After the citizens had tricked him, Iorek went into a rampage, trying to find his armour, destroying buildings and even killing at least two people. The townspeople would have shot him if they didn't want him for his skill in metalwork, being a bear. The townspeople made him work every day, making him promise to work until sunset sometimes, and then gave him his pay in food and spirits behind Einarsson's Bar. They told him that he would continue to work for them until he had been punished enough for killing two men and destroying several buildings, although Lyra thought they'd probably never let him out.

Iorek and Lyra in Trollesund

When Lyra Belacqua and the gyptians arrived in Trollesund, Coram van Texel and Lyra met up with Martin Lanselius who advised them to get an armoured bear to help their mission. The two visited Iorek and Farder Coram talked to him fearlessly about how he came to work for the citizens. Iorek told them that, for him to go and work for them, they must get him his armour back and then he would assist them in their campaign until either Lyra won or he died.[3]

Scared townspeople as Iorek reclaims his armour

The following day, against the advice of Farder Coram and John Faa, Lyra went to Iorek after having used her alethiometer to discover that Byrnison's armour was hidden in the cellar of the local priest's house. Iorek set off almost immediately to get it back, followed by the Sysselman's sentry, and retrieved his armour. Iorek took the Sysselman's sentry, who had been trying to stop him, in his mouth and was about to crush his head until Lyra stopped him. Iorek had, in return, pledged his loyalty to Lyra, agreeing to help her rescue the children from Bolvangar. After Iorek used a seal to oil the joints in his armour, the gyptians set off further north.

Severed child[]

Iorek and Lyra see witches in the sky

Iorek without his armour

Iorek travelled north with Lyra and the gyptians, under the orders of Lord Faa. When Lyra saw that there was a ghost in a nearby village, Iorek agreed to take her there if John consented. Iorek rode Lyra there and the two discovered the severed child: Tony Makarios. Iorek helped translate a local's words for Lyra when they arrived at the village.[4]

"Shame on you! Think what this child has done! You might not have more courage, but you should be ashamed to show less."
—Iorek chides the gyptians[src]

After taking him back, the gyptians were horrified by what they saw. Iorek chided them by telling them what this child had gone through, and how they were cowardly stepping away from him in fear. The boy died that night in his sleep. The following day, Lyra went to Iorek and asked him to make two tins, which he did easily, out of a discarded biscuit tin. Lyra put a spy-fly she had captured earlier inside one tin and used the other to fool Farder Coram into thinking it was the one with the spy-fly in. Lyra quizzed Iorek about being alone and what it was like to be a bear. He told her bears were made to be alone and that you couldn't fool a bear, he began to fence with her, blocking all her attacks and not moving when she feigned.[5]


Not long after, a group of Samoyed hunters attacked the gyptians with a volley of arrows. Iorek sped at the group, to many screams from the hunters, and began to tear them apart, but Lyra was captured all the same and taken to Bolvangar.[6]


Iorek in full armour

When Lyra and the children were ready to escape, Iorek helped them by attacking the Tartar guards that were stationed around the site. He hurled himself past the children as they escaped and at groups of the tartars, killing them quickly before joining back with the gyptians. Many of the children were shocked and scared by his massive form. After Lyra was taken by Marisa Coulter and then taken back by the gyptians, Iorek got into Lee's balloon with Roger Parslow and Lyra and they were pulled away by a group of witches.[7]

Return to Svalbard[]

Iofur Raknison

After Lyra fell from Scoresby's balloon and was captured by the panserbjørne on Svalbard, Iorek went to rescue her. Lyra had convinced Iofur Raknison that she was Iorek's dæmon and that she could be transferred to him if he defeated the exiled bear in single combat. For this, Iorek gave Lyra the surname Silvertongue as she had managed to trick a bear.

Iorek entered the arena and, inspired by Lyra's ability to trick Iofur, decided to play a similar tactic. They fought for a while before Iorek pretended to have an injured leg. He stumbled backwards and, as Iofur reared up in victory, Iorek sprang up from a rock he'd managed to get a hold on, and swung his fist at Iofur's jaw, knocking it clean off. Iorek soon defeated Iofur, eating his heart as per custom, and took his righful place as King, destroying all the human objects Iofur had riddled the island with.[1]

Bridge to the stars[]

After discussions about what to do with fellow, high-ranking bears, Iorek took Lyra and Roger to Lord Asriel's dwelling on Svalbard when he was being kept a prisoner. Asriel spoke to Iorek about what had happened and, that night, took Roger up a near mountain.[8] Lyra followed with Iorek and a group of bears who accompanied them. Iorek travelled for a while until a group of witches, from the other side, came and attacked them. The group of bears fended them, and Marisa's zeppelin off whilst Iorek led Lyra further up the mountain. Iorek travelled as far as he could go until they came to a small ice bridge that Iorek could not cross, being too heavy. Lyra crossed on her own and Iorek went back to fight with the bears.[9]

Avenging a death[]

After the window to the world of Cittàgazze was created by Lord Asriel, the witch Serafina Pekkala visited Iorek. She told him how the witches had invited Lee to their council where Lee told them of his plans to go and try to find Stanislaus Grumman.

Serafina had given Lee a little scarlet flower to call upon her if he was in trouble and, a few days later, Serafina got a message from him. She flew to Lee immediately where she found him dead behind a rock after fighting off a zeppelin full of Muscovites. Serafina had placed a spell to prevent his body from corruption and flown to Iorek immediately.

Iorek and Serafina exchanged a few more words before Iorek jumped into the sea, swimming into the new world and finding Lee's resting place which Serafina had described. Once there, he ate Lee's corpse and promised to avenge his friend.[10]


After Lord Asriel opened the rift to the world of Cittàgazze, the climate of Svalbard changed and Iorek led the bears to the Himalayas, where the weather was more hospitable. The bears paid for a boat and some crew and set off down a river, that usually ran the opposite way, towards Asia.

On their way down the river, Iorek wanted to stop at a town to refuel but the townspeople refused. A boy called Will Parry happened to be walking through the town, looking for Lyra, and decided to help the bears before a fight broke out. The boy challenged Iorek to a duel and, if Iorek backed down, the townspeople must give the bears the fuel peacfully. Iorek gave Will one piece of his armour, his helmet, which Will easily cut with the subtle knife.

The bears bought the fuel they needed and took Will on the boat, further down the river with them. Will let Iorek examine the knife and told him of his quest to find Lyra who was being held by Marisa in a cave. Iorek promised to assist Will.

When they arrived in Asia, the bears were free to roam around and explore the area whilst Will and Iorek travelled together towards the Valley of the Rainbows.[11]

Rescuing Lyra[]

When they arrived, Iorek kept out of sight, watching as Will went and spoke to Marisa. Later, once they had heard to approaching zeppelins that belonged to the Magisterium, Iorek stayed on top of the cliff overlooking the cave whilst Will and a girl from the village, Ama, went to rescue Lyra.[12]

Iorek got himself involved in the fight, killing many men, before going back into the mountains where there was snow. Lyra, who had escaped, and Will moved through the snow to try and find him and, on the following evening, found Iorek on top of a mountain. Lyra called to him and Iorek came bounding down to greet them. The moved up towards a cave in the mountain to talk and Will told Iorek about the knife. The knife had been broken when Marisa reminded Will of his mother and had split in several places.

Halfway through explaining it, Will looked up and saw the two Gallivespian spies: Chevalier Tialys and Lady Salmakia, who had assisted Will the night before. Iorek growled at them until the two Gallivespians apologised for spying but started calling Will a liar for telling them the knife was working.[13]

The forge[]

Shortly after, the three built a forge to try and repair the knife. Iorek dictated where to put the wood and began to mend the knife. Will had to imagine the knife coming together in his mind whilst Iorek hammered the metal. When it was fixed, Iorek took Will outside and talked to him.

Will explained what they planned to do next. At first, he said "I don't know" which Iorek responded to with a hard hit. Will then explained about Lyra wanting to go to the land of the dead to rescue Roger and how he knew it was difficult. Iorek then took Lyra away and hugged her, licking her hands clean from the soot of the fire. He talked to her and said he needed to go back to Svalbard with his bears as the Himalayas wasn't good for the bears, even the snow was different.[14]

Republic of Heaven[]

Whilst in the Republic of Heaven by the basalt fortress, Iorek and a regiment of his subjects fought on Lord Asriel's side in the Battle on the Plain. After meeting Lyra and Will near a river, he let them climb onto his back and took them to a small grove where their lost dæmons were sheltering from some attacking Spectres. Some of the ghosts that had been willing to fight after being freed from the world of the dead were fighting them off, though struggling, as they arrived and, unfortunately, Spectres weren't afraid of ghosts.

When he heard the voice of his dead comrade Lee, Iorek stopped dead in his tracks with disbelief and turned to briefly talk to him. Not wasting much time, Lee led Will and Lyra with him through the undergrowth to where their dæmons were hiding. Lyra and Will thanked Iorek quickly before following Lee.[15]

After the fight, Iorek and his bears would have sailed back to Svalbard, finding it impossible to live in the Alps as the very snow was different.[14]

Physical description[]

Iorek had white fur, although this was tinged with yellow when Lyra first met him from the lack of water he had had to wash in, and black eyes. Although Iorek was quite large, he wasn't as big as Iofur.

Personality and traits[]

Like all Panserbjørne, Iorek followed a very strict code of conduct, and would in no situation betray a promise he had made. Iorek was extremely proud and formidably selfless, but could be strongly sentimental and piteous at times.

Powers and Abilities[]


  • Panserbjørn Physiology: Iorek possessed incredible feats of strength, speed, durability, endurance and intelligence, even for a Panserbjørn, as Iorek was possibly more powerful than any other.
    • Enhanced Strength: Iorek was incredibly strong, even for a Panserbjørn, as he was strong enough to lift heavy objects despite his huge size, successfully overpower his rivals and even managed to go head-on against Iofur, eventually overpowering and killing him at the end of their battle over the throne of Svalbard.
    • Enhanced Speed and Stamina: Iorek possessed terrific speed and courage, as he could sprint at a high speed for hours without getting tired or exhausted even when he was fighting Iofur.
    • Enhanced Durability: Iorek was far more durable than other Panserbjørne, for example, he fought Iofur and survived multiple bites and several slashes and he even survived attacks from humans and other Panserbjørne, leaving him with many scars. When wearing his sky-iron armour, he was invulnerable to weaponry with the exception of the subtle knife.
    • Enhanced Endurance: Iorek's endurance was incredibly developed; he was able to take attacks from Iofur and still fight back.
    • Enhanced Dexterity: Like many of his kind, Iorek had opposable thumbs on each of his paws, allowing him to grasp, grab and grip objects firmly.
    • Enhanced Bite: Iorek had a particularly strong and powerful bite, either because of his sharp canine teeth, jaw-muscles, unusual jaw-structure or some other reason. Exactly what he could bite depended on the jaw-strength, resilience of his teeth/bite-surface and his shape.
    • Bilingualism: Like many of his kind, Iorek had the ability to speak English and understand human language fluently.
    • Cold Resistance: Iorek was highly resistant to cold and freezing temperatures due to his thick fur.
    • Enhanced Intelligence: Iorek possessed great intelligence; as his intelligent and cunning traits helped him to support people such as Lyra and Lee whilst even becoming the King of Svalbard. Although the townspeople of Trollesund managed to trick him by giving him alcohol and getting him drunk, Iorek was still intelligent as he couldn't be tricked by a human whilst he is sober. He even managed to defeat opponents who were much larger and stronger than him. He once helped Will mend the subtle knife but also gave him serious words of warning about it and what it could do, he even managed to trick Iofur (another bear) during their battle over the throne of Svalbard.


  • Enhanced Combatant: Due to Iorek's size, strength, durability and speed, he was a skilled combatant as he was able to battle against foes like humans or other Panserbjørne.
  • Expert Blacksmith and Craftsman: Like many of his kind, Iorek was an expert blacksmith and craftsman as he was skilled at metalwork by making and repairing things in iron by hand as well as being skilled at crafting, fashioning and forging armour for battles. Iorek had razor-sharp canine teeth and claws that were capable of biting and slashing through most materials.


Lee Scoresby[]

After helping Lee in Novy Odense, Iorek and Lee remained good friends and trusted each other, with Lee helping out Iorek multiple times. As a last respect to his comrade after he died, Iorek ate Lee's body. Iorek was shocked when he heard Lee's ghost's voice in the world of the dead.

Lyra Silvertongue[]

Lyra hugging Iorek

Lyra was nothing more than any other human to Iorek when he first saw her, but he ended up talking to her a lot on their journey in the North and was bound to her by his promise after she had told him where his armour was located. Iorek told her a lot about Svalbard and bears in general and, when Lyra was telling Iorek where his armour was, Iorek watched as she and her dæmon began to pull away from each other.

William Parry[]

Will and Iorek were comrades and respected each other, after first stepping down from Will when he wanted a fight, Iorek saw the intelligence and important characters in Will. Iorek helped Will mend the subtle knife but also gave him words of warning about it and what it could do.

Behind the scenes[]


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HDM Wiki has 34 images of Iorek Byrnison.


Panserbjørne Hjalmur HjalmursonIofur RaknisonIofur Raknison's fatherIorek ByrnisonRagnar LokissonSøren Eisarson
Important Panserbjørn armourSky-ironSvalbard
Novy Odense
Areas Aland SquareNovy OdenseWhite Sea
Buildings Barents Sea Company administration buildingCustoms HouseNovy Odense bankNovy Odense barNovy Odense boarding houseNovy Odense chandleryNovy Odense town hallSt Petronius' Oratory
Organisations Barents Sea CompanyLarsen ManganeseNovy Odense Courier and TelegraphNovy Odense Harbour CompanyNovy Odense Provincial Customs and Revenue Authority
Natives A. DeaconI.A. DenisovIvan PoliakovJohann AagaardK. HagströmLieutenant HauglandOlga PoliakovaOskar SigurdssonPetersenUnidentified bartenderUnidentified clerkUnidentified Customs officerUnidentified landladyUnidentified MayorUnidentified shopkeeperVictoria LundW.R.K. Ward
1962 H van BredaIorek ByrnisonLee ScoresbyMary AliceMikhail VassilievPierre McConvilleUnidentified gunmanUnidentified photographer
Important FishGas-gunMuscovySeal